Australia introduced the Subclass 485 visa in 2008 which granted post-study work rights to international students studying in Australia. Under this visa, international graduates could stay in Australia for two to four years and look for a job in the country to gain international work experience.
As of June 2019, there were 92,000 Subclass 485 visa holders in Australia. A recent study indicates that 76% of these visa holders felt that access to it was an important factor in their decision to study in Australia and 79% of them were, in fact, working in Australia.
The survey also indicated that many of them did not have full-time jobs and some were in jobs unrelated to their field of study.
This brings up the question of how effective the Subclass 485 visa is in providing students with international work experience that resonates with the degree they have acquired.
The study surveyed more than 45 visa holders, and this was their take on the visa’s advantages and disadvantages:
Gave more time and opportunity to improve their English language skills and gave them professional and social networking opportunities.
Gave them access to the Australian labor market which also made them realize the necessity of acquiring English proficiency, work experience, internships and building a network to succeed in the job market.
Helped them repay student loans even though they were working in jobs unrelated to their studies.
They felt that the visa did not give them a competitive advantage while looking for a job because the two-year period was too short to gain the confidence of employers, or membership in a professional body, gain adequate work experience or secure the right employment.
They complained about the lack of flexibility in extending or renewing the visa.
The visa was not an easy pathway for the PR visa which many believe it is.
The visa holders also felt employers preferred applicants with a PR visa and did not understand the implications of the Subclass 485 visa and were thus reluctant to hire them.
The survey revealed that many employers were vague about the 485 visa and preferred to employ those with a PR visa or citizenship. Therefore, these visa holders were more eager to use the visa to gain their PR visa without realizing the difficulties involved in the transition.
Helping the visa holders:
Some important measures are required to help the intention behind the post-study work options succeed and help the visa holders.
Local businesses and employers must be made aware of the features of the visa that will help reduce the stereotyping of these visa holders and provide them better job opportunities to gain experience relevant to their field of study.
Employers must be encouraged to judge these visa holders on their skills and qualities rather than their visa status.
International graduates are a valuable resource to the Australian employers because their education in Australian universities provides them with a unique combination of multilingual skills, cultural knowledge and a global outlook that will be valuable to Australian employers.
The temporary graduate visa should act as a ticket to the Australian labor market and ensure both the local employers and the visa holders stand to gain.